The unique properties of LED lighting are being tapped for more than just illumination. By harnessing a specific portion of the spectrum, LED products are being developed to prevent the spread of disease.

According to statistics provided by the Center for Disease Control (CDC), more than 160,000 people in the U.S. die each year from an infectious disease. At the same time, bacterial infections are reportedly becoming more resistant to commonly prescribed antibiotics, hindering the medical community’s efforts to eradicate these occurrences.

At this year’s Lightfair, one of the most interesting innovations was the debut of LED lighting products equipped with disinfectant properties for both healthcare environments as well as for residential use. These developments are the result of science-based companies partnering with lighting manufacturers. For example, the technology company Vital Vio has collaborated with microbiologists, health experts, and lighting companies to introduce LED disinfection technology to a wide range of applications.

Vital Vio has created what it calls VioSafe™ White Light Disinfection™ technology that emits a white light that is attractive and safe for humans while continuously protecting indoor environments from harmful bacteria. It has been awarded several U.S. patents for these innovative technologies and products, with numerous other patents pending.

Wisconsin-based Visa Lighting is one company that has partnered with Vital Vio in offering specification-grade architectural lighting solutions for commercial and institutional markets. “This technology can be a game changer for many different facility types and installations,” says Visa Lighting Project Manager Ryan Oldenburg. “We are excited to incorporate it into our growing range of products.”

Visa Lighting’s new disinfecting fixtures, powered by Vital Vio, are targeted toward spaces as diverse as athletic training facilities, hospital patient rooms, dining areas, daycare facilities, public restrooms, hotel suites, college dorms and other applications.

LED lighting is becoming so much more than merely providing energy-saving illumination.

“This [technology] brings an entirely new and crucial benefit to all segments of the commercial lighting market,” Oldenburg comments. “It fits well with our philosophy that good lighting is about more than just delivering lumens.”

Light bulb manufacturer Soraa recently expanded its patented white light disinfection technology based on the company’s highly efficient violet LEDs, which can be used to provide a disinfecting action while also delivering natural white light.

Jeff Parker, CEO of Soraa, referenced the company’s extensive portfolio of patents in the field of bactericidal LEDs dating back to 2009. Soraa’s new collaboration program is further buttressed by its recent acquisition of certain foundational GE patents on GaN LEDs that date back to 2001.

“We are extremely proud of our early inventions in this space and are actively engaged in partnerships with key players in the field that will leverage our expertise with violet LEDs,” Parker states. “These unique lighting solutions give us the ability to help usher in a new era of ‘white light’ disinfection in an effort to create healthier environments.”

Lightfair also marked the debut of “Current, powered by GE” (a new division and entity) offering proprietary solutions in patented disinfection technology for the healthcare sector such as LED tubes with integrated TriGaintm technology.

Current unveiled fixtures featuring GE UVA disinfection technology that allow patients and medical staff to be present in the room while surfaces are continuously being disinfected, underscoring its safety. The new Lumination LBT fixture with disinfection technology is reportedly capable of killing up to 90 percent of common pathogens. Utilizing this technology is believed to help reduce the amount of infection-related hospital readmissions, including those avoidable healthcare-associated infections responsible for roughly 28 percent of all-cause readmissions.

The topic of antibacterial lighting is growing in importance. Illinois-based manufacturer Kenall Lighting recently published a white paper (HAI Prevention: The Dynamics of Patient Room Lighting) that proposes using lighting to reduce the amount of Healthcare Acquired Infections (HAIs). The white paper points out that some pathogens can survive for days, weeks, or even months on a variety of surfaces such as bed linens, privacy curtains, door knobs, light switches, tables, remotes, and even lighting fixtures — particularly those mounted on walls near the head of the patient. “Each of these contaminated surfaces can act as a reservoir of pathogens for later transmission to an unsuspecting host,” the white paper reports, adding, “Pathogens can be mobilized by air flow and transmitted from one surface to another (or from one room to another) through the air. Objects that are in locations that are difficult to reach (such as ceiling-mounted lighting fixtures), can serve as pathogen reservoirs. This understanding can be easily expanded to include surfaces which are reachable, but not typically touched such as wall-mounted light fixtures.”

“It fits well with our philosophy that good lighting is about more than just delivering lumens.”

—Ryan Oldenburg, Visa Lighting
Healthcare professionals aren’t the only ones interested in preventing the spread of illness. Vital Vio has also partnered with the decorative lighting manufacturer Evolution Lighting LLC in Florida to create to create the ellumi™ line of bacteria-killing LED lighting fixtures for consumer use.

The first ellumi™ product – an undercabinet light – debuted in spring and has been followed this month by the launch of a recessed light with the same properties. According to the company, researchers have proven the specific wavelengths found in ellumi™ eliminate up to 99 percent of hundreds of different germs (including Staph/MRSA, E.coli, salmonella, mold, and fungi) on surfaces at the flip of a light switch.

The ellumitm Recessed Retrofit Light is competitively priced for the consumer market and is initially targeted as a shower light, among other applications. The Recessed Retrofit Light is designed to inhibit the growth of mold and fungi that can typically linger in a shower or bath even after wiping with a common household cleaning product.

LED lighting is becoming so much more than merely providing energy-saving illumination. Showrooms and designers can reference these other value-added benefits and types of antibacterial products to their customers when discussing the advantages of converting their homes to LED.